Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Recommended Reading

Need to hone your proofreading skills?

Need a really good reference book or dictionary but not sure which one to go for?

Check out The Proofreading Agency's recommended reading list!

I can personally vouch for The Proofreading Training Pack, it has excellent explanations and plenty of exercises to practise your skills with all answers included.

I also highly recommend New Hart's Rules and New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors. I find them invaluable!

Monday, 25 February 2013

Presenting Foreign-Language Terms

How do you incorporate foreign-language terms into an English-language text? There are two things to consider:

  • how to present the foreign word or phrase
  • how to present the translation

Foreign Words/Phrases

The editor must always consider the rules of the original language (spelling, accents, punctuation, etc.) but in general the following styles can be applied.

1. Use italic type for foreign terms to distinguish them from the English text.

In Spanish, the verb haber is used as the auxiliary verb in the perfect tense.
The word era comes from the late Latin aera.

NB Foreign proper names are not italicised. Example: She lived on rue St Michel for a decade.

2. Use roman type for terms that have been naturalised into the English language.

His frequent use of double entendres was starting to annoy her.
She had a severe case of déjà vu every time she entered the building.

NB A word that has been naturalised into the English language may or may not retain its original accents, e.g. regime and facade. Always check the dictionary.


You can present translations in a variety of ways, but your style must be consistently applied. Here are a couple of examples:

1. Enclose the translation in quotation marks.

In Italian, the verb comprare means 'to buy'.

2. Enclose the translation in brackets (without quotation marks).

Horace's use of repimus (we crawled) emphasises the slow pace.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Referencing Work Titles II

Works of Art

1. Italics

  • Paintings
  • Sculptures
  • Drawings
  • Posters
  • Prints
Examples: Guernica (painting), David (sculpture), etc.

2. Roman
  • Series of unique works of art
  • Titles bestowed by someone other than the artist
Examples: La Gioconda (title bestowed by someone other than the artist)

Musical Works

This is where it gets a bit tricky!

1. Italics
  • Albums
  • Operas
  • Musicals
  • True titles of symphonies, concertos, etc. 
Examples: Making Mirrors by Gotye (album), La bohème by Puccini (opera), Wicked (musical)

2. Roman in quotation marks
  • Songs
  • Arias
  • Anthems
  • Movements
  • Nicknames
Examples: 'Hysteria' by Muse (song), 'Summertime' from Porgy and Bess (aria), 'God Save the Queen' (anthem), 'Winter' from The Four Seasons (movement), the 'Jupiter' symphony (nickname)

3. Roman
  • Generic names
  • Tempo markings used as titles of movements
  • Sections of mass and other services
Examples: Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 (generic name), the Adagietto from Mahler's Symphony No. 5 (tempo marking used as title of movement)

The above is just a summary! If you want more detailed information, I recommend New Hart's Rules: The Handbook of Style for Writers and Editors (OUP). 

Monday, 19 March 2012

Referencing Work Titles I

Here are a few simple rules to remember when referencing work titles in your writing!

The general question to ask is: Is the work a whole, or part of a whole?

  • Whole à use italics
  • Part of a whole à use roman in quotation marks
An example is a music album, e.g. Born to Die by Lana Del Ray. This is the whole. A song on the album is part of the whole, e.g. 'Video Games' on the album Born to Die by Lana Del Ray.

We can divide work titles into three areas:
  1. Written work
  2. Works of art
  3. Works of music
This post will concentrate on written work.

Written Work

1. Italics

Use italics for the following types of written work:
  • Films
  • Books
  • Journals
  • Newspapers
Examples: Pulp Fiction (film), Pride and Prejudice (book), BMJ (journal), The Guardian (newspaper), Moments of Vision (poetry collection), etc.

2. Roman in quotation marks

Use roman in quotation marks for:
  • Poems
  • Articles
  • Chapter titles
  • Short stories
Examples: 'A Birthday' by Christina Rossetti (poem), 'The Snows of Kilimanjaro' by Ernest Hemingway (short story), etc.

3. Roman

A couple of exceptions to the above rule are:
  • Series titles
  • Sacred texts
Examples: The Harry Potter books, the Rough Guides, the Bible, the Old Testament, the Book of Genesis, etc.

A Note on Capitalisation
Titles of works are generally capitalised according to the following rules:
  1. Always capitalise the initial word of the title
  2. Capitalise nouns, adjectives and verbs
  3. You may or may not capitalise pronouns and adverbs (up to you but be consistent)
  4. Do not capitalise articles, conjunctions and prepositions
Example: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

In my next post I will go on to discuss works of art and music!

Monday, 20 February 2012


Here are a few simple rules to remember when quoting!

1. Single or double quotation marks?

This is your personal choice, just ensure that you use either single or double quotation marks consistently throughout! This saves a lot of trouble when debating what to enclose in single and what to enclose in double quotation marks.

2. Quote within a quote?

Modern British practice is to use single quotation marks for quotations and double quotation marks for quotations within quotations, for example:

She said ‘The term “haemoglobin” is difficult to spell.’

Newspaper and US practice is the opposite:

She said “The term ‘haemoglobin’ is difficult to spell.”

3. When do I use quotation marks?

Quotations are either embedded or separated from the text. Embedded quotations need quotation marks – see the two examples above. Quotations that are separated from the text tend to be long quotations and are usually indented – in this case quotation marks are not needed. For example:

The definition of haemoglobin is:

a red protein responsible for transporting oxygen in the blood of vertebrates; its molecule comprises four subunits, each containing an iron atom bound to a haem group (OED)

4. Punctuation?

If the quotation is a full, complete sentence then place the punctuation marks inside the quotation marks (and use a capital letter for the first letter of the first word):

He asked her, ‘Will you marry me?’

If the quotation is only part of the original quotation then punctuation marks go outside the quotation marks:

What does the poet mean when he says ‘purples prinked the main’?

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Punctuation III: Hyphens in Compound Words

I’ve already talked about the hyphen versus the en dash and now I will look at the hyphen in more detail, concentrating on the use of the hyphen in compound words.

Hyphens in compound words

Compound words may consist of two separate words, two words that are hyphenated, or they may have become one word through common usage. Compound words which risk being mispronounced if joined together take a hyphen (e.g. drip-proof, hat-trick). Hyphens are also used to signify an abstract rather than a literal interpretation (e.g. crow’s-feet).

When compound words modify a noun, the rules are as follows:

  • Preceding the noun: hyphenate (e.g. I once owned a long-haired cat)
  • Following the noun: do not hyphenate (e.g. The cat I once owned was long haired)

Ensure you fully understand the description you are proofreading, because a single hyphen can completely change the meaning:

  • A stainless steel table is a spotlessly clean table which is made of steel
  • A stainless-steel table is a table made of stainless steel

Do not hyphenate compounds which use an adverb ending in ‘-ly’ (e.g. They are a happily married couple).

When there is a gerund involved, use a hyphen, as the construction is describing rather than modifying something (e.g. The goat I once owned was a sun-loving goat).

There are some exceptions to the compound words rule: for example, you should not hyphenate capitalised words (e.g. I just can’t read those Old Testament stories); similarly, it is not necessary to hyphenate technical terms (e.g. liquid crystal display).

If in doubt, check in the dictionary!